In a world where social media is quickly becoming the norm for many celebrities and politicians to connect with their fan base, one question is being asked: “Is this brevity, which has long been practiced, now being imposed upon writers by Twitter?” In an article written by the New York Daily News, there is an interesting argument by critics for and against the use of Twitter for writers, that explores whether this brevity hinders or helps creativity.
Our new website continues our experimentation with regard to the communication practices of an academic department. When we started this experiment a number of years ago, we focused on social media and on listening as much as talking.
We will continue much of what has worked in the past. We still have our undergraduate interns (@brooklynrose217, @dakinmsu, @jennshelden) and their fearless leader (@soulsmiles). Their job is to help us leverage a platform such as a departmental website to do some good in the world.
But what is new about this website? It looks different, yes, and there are some enhancements in functionality. However, the big shifts are rhetorical. With this new website, we are trying to pivot to meet the needs of an external audience. To be sure, we will provide basic departmental content that will help students, faculty, and others at Michigan State to work with us as an academic unit. In fact, we hope that content is more useful than what we provided previously.
The big change is the content feed on the main page. Here we hope to provide content that is useful, interesting, fun, and engaging for those interested in “writing.” Our interns will listen and share what they learn, and I will do the same. But we have also invited faculty to share ideas that they think matter. We have invited alumni to write with us. We have also invited friends from other universities and organizations to write as well. We want to become a resource on rhetoric and writing and to be useful to our audience.
As we continue this experiment, we don’t know what will happen. Nearly everyone I have consulted about this strategy thinks it will fail. It might. But maybe not. Maybe we can facilitate something special. The beauty of a university is that it concentrates talent in time and space. Such concentration facilitates magic. We are some 50 faculty and over 200 students, all bouncing into one another, and I am counting on a little of that magic to help this experiment succeed.
In a recent blog post on Beyond The Margins, titled “Filling in the Blanks: When a Society Acquires Freedom of Speech,” Julie Wu writes about her travel to Taiwan to research her second novel and the memories and thoughts this trip has conjured for her. In the same breath that she revels in democracy’s freedom of speech she is compelled to speak of the opposite of this freedom, censorship. Wu’s blog posts offers a unique perspective into the complexities of writing, cultural and governmental politics, and democracy.
In a TedTalk filmed this summer, Kirby Ferguson challenges us to think of remix as “a better way to conceive of creativity.” He uses the repertoire of Bob Dylan to point out the clearly remixed melodies and lyrics that Dylan uses from folk singers, which he reminds us is actually typical of folk musicians, a remix culture maintained by building on one another’s works.
In this video Ferguson is arguing that “everything is remix.” He then boils remix down to three steps – copy, transform, and combine. He calls on Woody Guthrie and Henry Ford to show not just that everything is remix, but that remix has always existed. He says, “Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made, we are dependent on one another.”
Considering the explosion of remix in the writing classroom, Ferguson’s invitation is a call to engaging this creativity in our students, our colleagues, and ourselves.
John Paul Titlow over at ReadWriteWeb has a four-part series on how journalists are using social media – Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and SoundCloud. This series offers insight into how teachers can engage student writers in multimodal writing, remix projects, and much more. For example, Titlow found that journalists are using SoundCloud’s mobile audio editing feature to record and edit podcasts and stories for radio while in the field. Imagine this in the hands of writing students!
A list of current MSU students, faculty, and Rhetoric & Writing alumni presenting at this year’s RSA conference.
- On Making It In Rhetoric and Composition: A Black Woman’s Perspective on Motherhood, Marriage, and Graduate School, April Baker-Bell
- On Teachable, Rhetorical Moments: The Examination of Illness Narratives by Black Women, Letitia Fowler
- Aristotle is Not My Father: Re-framing & Decolonizing Legitimizing Narratives in Rhetoric Studies, Malea Powell
- Vital Voices in Our Field: Recognizing and Learning from the Intellectual Contributions of African American Undergraduate Male Writers, Steven Lessner
- From Agency to Desire: Reframing the Body Through Technology & Across Cultures, Jennifer Sano-Franchini
- Mediating Bodies, Assembling Identities: The Roles of Desire and Technology In Regulating the Lives of Adult Film Actors, Lehua Ledbetter
- Reframing Civic Space: Bodies, Mobile Devices, and the Coffeehouse as Symbol, Stacy Pigg
- Reframing Academia: The Identification of the Contemporary University with Corporate America, Christie Daniels
- Re-assembling Rhetoric: Tracing the Construction of Language, Culture, and Identity Across Local and Global Contexts, Steven Fraiberg
- Decolonial Rhetorics of Indigeneity and Latinidad, Ellen Cushman
- Home is Calling: Forming Scholarly Identities By Bringing Home to Work, Marilee Brooks Gillies
- “Bring the Family to Work” Day? What About a “Bring my Family to Work” Career?, Elena Garcia
- Inventing Frames of Identification: Narrative Inquiry, Digital Video, and Collaborative Autobiography, Julie Lindquist
- Guattari/Jacobs: A Political Ecology of Media Technology, John Monberg
- “Ello Mama Africa:” The Rhetorical Use of Patois in Reggae Music Lyrics and the Afrocentrist Movement in Jamaica, Shari Wolke
- Reframing African American Verbal Tradition as a Rhetorical Benefit For All Academic Writers, Bonnie Williams
- Of Numbers and Arguments: Analysis of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Justin Thorpe
- The Prof is in the Story, Madhu Narayan
- Conservative Voice Lords, Incorporated: Rhetorical Constructions of Identity as Social Mobilization, Doug Schraufnagle
- The Book Called My Body, Daisy Levy
- Accidentally Ordinary: How Everyday Environments Write on Us, Marilee Brooks-Gillies
- I Refuse to Hide: The Importance of Clothing in Developing and Presenting my Scholarly Identity, Elena Marie Garcia
- Seeking Power Over My Own Body: Negotiating the Tensions of the Academy, Fashion, and Identity, Katie Manthey
Cultural Rhetorics Research Lab
Rhetoric & Writing graduate students Andrea Riley Mukavetz, Daisy Levy, Doug Schraufnagle, Jennifer Fisch-Feurgson, Marilee Brooks-Gillies, and with faculty adviser, Dr. Malea Powell, have used the research cluster structure to form a collective lab-space looking to reach two main objectives: to start and sustain a humanities theory lab and, and to elucidate cultural rhetorics as an interdisciplinary field.
The lab’s mission is focused on promoting, informing, and theorizing about what cultural rhetorics is. This year’s multitude of activities included planning two forums for individuals interested in gaining hands-on experience with cultural theory and rhetorics, collectively authoring an article entitled “What is Cultural Rhetorics?,” designing sustainability documents for the lab, and networking here at MSU and beyond.
Recently, various members of the lab participated in a variety workshops at the CCCC’s conference, and will also be attending the upcoming Rhetoric Society of America conference in May.
Over the summer, the lab plans to build its web-presences and its major projects for the next year are to begin working on a digital Cultural Rhetorics journal and a Cultural Rhetorics textbook as well.
Queer Rhetorics Research Cluster
The Queer Rhetorics cluster is looking to use the methodology of play to explore and examine queer identity, bodies, and practices in various communities. Overall, its members (Casey Miles, Katie Livingston, and Simone West), along with their faculty adviser, Dr. Trixie Smith, are looking to contribute to the queer rhetoric field as a whole.
Aside from group research and authorship, each member is also taking this opportunity to progress forward research they’ve already started independently. Miles’ work this semester focused on butch pedagogy; Livingston’s research is centered around exploring consent as a community-based methodology; West is interested in television censorship and cultural practices through a queer lens; Smith’s work is concerned with coming-out stories.
This past year, cluster members presented at CCCC on this work; likewise, members have proposed sessions and panels for next year’s CCCC as well as the PCAS/ACAS conference.
For more information about this specific cluster, contact Trixie Smith at email@example.com
Steve Lessner, a graduate teaching assistant for WRAC and a PHD candidate in the Rhetoric & Writing program, was recently awarded a 2012-2013 Excellence-In-Teaching Citation for his outstanding efforts teaching First-Year Writing. While several citations were awarded, Lessner was the only individual from the College of Arts and Letters to receive the award.
This specific award is given to six graduate teaching assistants who have distinguished themselves in the classroom, and all were honored at the annual Awards Convocation, which was held on Tuesday, February 12, 2012 at the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theater.
A committee reviewed Lessner on a cumulative and diverse set of teaching materials including his teaching philosophy, course syllabi, curriculum vita, faculty letters of recommendations, Student Instructional Rating System forms (SIRS), and most importantly, letters of recommendation written by previous students.
“Mr. Steven Lessner is the definition of a truly excellent counselor, guider, teacher, and friend,” said a previous student in support of Lessner. “I wholeheartedly believe that [he] helped improve my writing, my thought process, as well as my ability to interpret and understand other scholars’ work,” the writer finished.
Lessner’s teaching philosophy primarily focuses on encouraging undergraduate students to “consider how their diverse literacy practices outside the academy can beneficially impact their writing in high education.”
Lessner draws upon his teaching experiences to enrich his own research. He recently co-authored a chapter with R&W alum Collin Craig entitled “Finding Your Way In: Invention as Inquiry Based Learning In First Year Writing,” published in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing: Volume 1 (Parlor Press, WAC Clearinghouse, 2010).